Satellites Speed Up for No Reason


Imagine you’re pushing a baby on a swing set. At a certain point his squeals of delight start to turn anxious, so you stop pushing him, muttering something about it being true what they say about babies being little cowards. Once you stop pushing the baby, instead of slowing to a stop, he starts swinging higher and higher. The baby is just sitting there, not moving, and yet he appears to be gaining momentum. Your only option is to pull out your phone and curse the Ghostbusters theme for not including a phone number, because the universe is suddenly behaving like it’s been run backward through a film projector.

The universe was slow to go digital.

This might be because you remember the law of conservation of energy, which says that energy can’t be created or destroyed, just transferred. So you’ll never get more energy out of something than what you started with unless you add it. Unfortunately, one of the simplest laws of physics has to have an asterisk next to it. Go down to the bottom of the page and you’ll find something along the lines of “This is usually the case, but occasionally the universe gets a hankering to let an object passing by the Earth just up and gain speed for no real reason. We assume this is because someone somewhere is fucking with us.”

Reality makes so much sense if you just assume God likes to get fucked up as often as the rest of us.

It’s called the flyby anomaly because there are multiple instances where NASA’s Galileo, NEAR, Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 spacecraft have experienced an unexplainable increase in speed over massive distances. It’s always when they’re passing Earth at enough of a distance to not be affected by its gravitational pull, yet they somehow pick up speed, like some universal force is inside stepping on the accelerator.

“Is this where we speed up for no particular reason?” “Nope, the blue one.” — Whoever’s screwing with us.

The anomaly was only first noticed in 1980, and science has spent the ensuing decades trying to figure out what the hell is going on. They’ve accounted for every type of energy that’s ever been discovered. So far, they don’t even have a real theory. So we could suggest that the spacecraft are just showing off for the home crowd, and that would be as good as anything science has come up with so far.

“Wizards. We’re chalking it up to wizards.”

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